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Five things we learned as England fell short in the World Cup semi-finals

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England’s World Cup dream died as Croatia fought back to win their Moscow semi-final 2-1.

After Kieran Trippier gave the Three Lions an early lead with a stunning free-kick, it was all looking good for Gareth Southgate's men, as they looked to book a spot in their first World Cup final since 1966.

However, a second-half equaliser from Ivan Perisic and an extra-time winner from Mario Mandzukic broke the hearts of the Englishman.

Despite overachieving in reaching the semi-final in the first place, the result has left a bad taste in the mouth of English fans.

Here, Press Association Sport have taken a look at five things we learned from the game.

52 Years of Hurt

The line in the Three Lions anthem of 1996 recalls “30 years of hurt”. Well, make that 52 now.

For all those countless assertions that ‘football is coming home’ it is, indeed, heading to France or Croatia.

England’s despair will be all the harder to take after Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick had them dreaming of a Moscow final on Sunday.

Had John Stones’ extra-time header, cleared off the line with the score at 1-1, gone in, it might have been a different story.

TOPSHOT-FBL-WC-2018-MATCH62-CRO-ENG

But there could be no complaints as this young England side fell short and Croatia showed their class to deservedly book a final place.

Trippier - The Set Piece Specialist

Few would have had Trippier down as first goalscorer.

The Tottenham full-back had not scored since February 2016 and never in an England shirt, but Trippier needed only five minutes to become the third Englishman to score in a World Cup semi-final, following in the illustrious footsteps of Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.

Trippier does not take free-kicks at Spurs with Christian Eriksen around, and is known as the ‘Bury Beckham’ because of his delivery from the right rather than his set-piece ability.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH62-CRO-ENG

But after his Moscow masterpiece, it might be a case of Beckham now being known as the ‘Walthamstow Trippier’.

Sterling Looked Impressive

So often singled out for criticism, much of it unfair, Raheem Sterling had genuine claims to be considered England’s best player in the first half.

Sterling has often darted into little holes during this tournament, his quick footwork allowing space for others to prosper, but this time he operated further forward, even beyond Harry Kane a lot of the time, as England sought to utilise his pace and unsettle centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida.

The tactic worked a treat as he stretched the play, but England’s loss of control after the restart saw Sterling starved of service and sacrificed.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Set Piece Kings

In a tournament where the set-piece has been king, England again showed they are the masters of this particular discipline.

Trippier’s free-kick was the 70th goal scored from a set-piece in Russia. It was also England’s ninth out of 12 goals with the Three Lions equally deadly from the penalty spot, corners or free-kicks outside the box.

The total is also now the most by any team in a single World Cup tournament since 1966 – but sadly, for England, it was no omen with a repeat of that famous Wembley triumph ended in extra-time.

France Are Smiling

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH61-FRA-BEL

Didier Deschamps and his France players might just have been wearing the widest smiles in the whole of Russia.

Safely into Sunday’s showpiece courtesy of their 1-0 victory over Belgium, France already knew they would have an advantage of 24 hours extra rest against their final opponents, but that turned into a little more time as Croatia and England stood toe-to-toe and almost punched themselves into a standstill.

Croatia are only the second team in World Cup history to go to extra-time in three consecutive games. So the question is now can they recover in time to take on France?

Topics:
Football
Gareth Southgate
Croatia Football
England
Ivan Perisic
Mario Mandzukic
Christian Eriksen
Dejan Lovren
John Stones
Harry Kane
France Football
Raheem Sterling
England Football
World Cup
Premier League
Kieran Trippier
Tottenham Hotspur

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